Brimming over with excitement at the thought of flying over the Drake Passage and seeing the Lemaire Channel, Charlotte Bay and the Gerlache Strait, I arrived in the port city of Punta Arenas in southern Chile on Friday 7th December. I had been looking forward to doing the Trip of a Lifetime Air Cruise which would be a week cruising around the Peninsula on board the Ocean Nova, a Danish ice-strengthened vessel with capacity for 68 passengers.
After checking into my room at the Rey Don Felipe, I joined everyone for a presentation about what the following week would bring including what to wear, Antarctica’s visitor guidelines, Zodiac guidelines and the plan for flying to Antarctica. After trying on our Wellington boots, (specially designed for temperatures of -50 degrees) and freshening up, we dined at the nearby Hotel Jose Nogueira where we had a cocktail at the Shackelton Bar and a delicious 3-course meal before being told we wouldn’t be able to fly out of Punta Arenas the next morning due to there being too much ice on the runway in King George Island, in the South Shetland Islands for the company’s BAE 146-200 plane to land. Although people were disappointed, the staff had been working very hard to arrange an alternative plan and in order for this to work we would have to travel to Rio Gallegos, an Argentinian city about 3 hours east.
We went to bed that evening feeling slightly disappointed but also hopeful and appreciative of the fact that in Antarctica, safety comes first and everyone is a slave to the weather.